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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Teaching Practical Science: Chemistry. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Welcome to Teaching Practical Chemistry, my name is Mark Langley and I’m a Professional Development Leader at the National STEM Learning Centre in York. Understanding your own student’s background is key to effective contextualisation of the subject matter. In other words, you need to address the question “why should my students be interested in electrolysis” and of course, if they aren’t interested, they will struggle to engage and develop their own understanding of that topic. By bringing contexts to the science that support your students, you may also give them insights into science that help them develop a sense of “science is something for me”.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds This Science Capital approach is discussed further in one of the upcoming articles and can help you and your students’ progress better in all science. In this week, we’ll explore how students can develop their practical skills and understanding, using the topic of electrolysis. This area is often a challenge for students. Whilst it can be fairly straightforward to carry out the practical, applying understanding of the chemical theories becomes more challenging. It can also be difficult for students to understand why they are learning about a particular topic, if there is no context for students that engage them with their everyday experiences.

Skip to 1 minute and 18 seconds This week we will equip you with a series of activities and discussions about context, which you can use to engage students with. We also look at a range of ways to approach the same practical, to give a variety of demonstration and class activities, as well as low-cost, low-hazard methods to help your students get more hands-on experience with electro-chemistry.

Why should students be interested in chemistry?

Welcome to the course Teaching Practical Science: Chemistry.

Chemistry is a fantastic subject which bridges the physical and life sciences, with everything around us a product of chemistry. Experiments in the classroom are effective ways to engage your students in the amazing world of chemistry and provides them with first-hand experience of observing chemical phenomena up close.

Over the next three weeks you will look at the following areas:

  • Practical work for 14-16 year olds for the following key topics: salt preparation, rates of reaction, electrolysis.
  • Contextualising practical work in chemistry to our everyday environment.
  • How progression in practical work impacts on students’ learning.
  • Assessment of learning through practical work.
  • Approaches to teaching practical science that can be applied to other topic areas.

Introduction to the course

Mark Langley is the Science CPD Lead at the National STEM Learning Centre. Mark will guide you through this 3-week course, supporting you to develop your teaching of practical chemistry.

Watch the video above to find out what we’ll be looking at together this week.

If you would like to undertake the practical tasks, please download the equipment list [PDF].

Course support

Mark will be on hand between 15 June - 10 July 2020 to support you through the three weeks from the course start date, and is joined by Tim Bradbury, who is a Professional Development Leader at the National STEM Learning Centre.

Mark will be answering your questions in the Question and Answer (Q&A) session in step 3.12. This is your opportunity to post questions about the whole course and your teaching context directly to Mark. Simply post questions to step 3.12 before 10 July 2020 to take part.

If you’re new to online learning, or new to FutureLearn, you may find the How it works guide helpful. The Crowdsourced Guide to Learning and Six tips and tools for social learning on FutureLearn may also be of interest.

Tasks and discussions

As you progress through the course you will be asked to undertake several tasks that will provide you with opportunities to:

  • Reflect on your teaching of practical chemistry.
  • Experiment with strategies with your students.
  • Share ideas for teaching approaches with others.

Tasks are clearly indicated and are highlighted with a vertical line in the left-margin - like the one against this paragraph. The first tasks of this course are at the bottom of this page.


To start off, we’d like to know a little more about you. What inspired you to teach chemistry and why do you think students should be interested in chemistry? Let us know who you are and your thoughts in the discussion below.

If you are taking this online course as a teaching team, we’d be keen to know how you are using this course to support CPD in your school.

Mark complete

When you complete a step on the course, click Mark as Complete at the bottom right. This helps you keep track of your progress. Mark over 90% of the course steps complete and you’ll be eligible for a Certificate of Achievement when you Upgrade.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching Practical Science: Chemistry

National STEM Learning Centre